On Sunday, Portland surpassed a new homicide record in nearly 35 years. A shooting in Old Town Portland left two people shot and killed — marking 71 homicides in the city in 2021. According to the Oregonian, “homicides in Portland had declined for decades until they began to inch up again a few years ago and then exploded in 2020.”
Gun violence has accounted for three-quarters of the homicides in 2021 and more than half of the homicide victims have been Black, Latinx or Asian people — highlighting the disproportionate impact of gun violence on communities of color in the state.
In April, the city commission approved a nearly $6 million plan to address gun violence, consisting mostly of grants for community-based organizations doing outreach in neighborhoods affected by gun violence. This is an important first step, but sustainable funding is still needed for these life saving programs.
To assist state and local governments, President Joe Biden signed the American Rescue Plan (ARP) into law in March, authorizing $350 billion in funding for governments to counter the economic toll of the COVID-19 pandemic. States, cities and counties can utilize ARP funds to counter surges in gun violence and support gun violence intervention programs performing essential public health work. More on how Oregon could use these funds is available here.
Research on violence intervention programs have shown to reduce gun violence in communities disproportionately impacted. Programs such as Healing Hurt People have been leading the charge against gun violence in their own communities for years. This session, Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action volunteers are working with community partners to ensure funding for violence prevention and intervention programs across the state.
Legislative actions can also be taken to address gun violence in the city. Lawmakers should focus on regulating ghost guns — untraceable, do-it-yourself firearms that don’t require background checks. Ghost guns are the fastest growing gun safety issue in years and are often recovered in crime investigations across the country. Additionally, closing the dangerous Charleston loophole will help keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them. Both measures were considered last year, but ultimately were not passed. This session, volunteers will work to urge lawmakers to pass these measures to keep Oregonians safe.
Every year, over 500 people die by guns in Oregon and over 400 more are wounded. Gun violence costs Oregon $3.3 billion each year, of which $81.5 million is paid by taxpayers. More information about gun violence in the state is available here.